I just read a post about cities in Korea having an identity problem: in that they tend to look the same. Sokcho’s main drag suffers the same problem. This street below can belong to any city in Korea.
(MORE: Seoul, A Brain Dump)
Wandering down the main shopping area after a particularly hard hike in nearby Seoraksan National Park, I took a turn towards the water.
Here by the waterfront the sights are a little different.
Sokcho is still mainly a fishing village. In case you can’t figure it out from the slightly fishy smell in the air, there’s this fishy statue in the center of town.
Down this street by the water, seafood restaurants line the street. I got dragged into one of these restaurants. Quite literally. I took a second too long to decide, the next thing you know my shoes are off and I’m sitting cross legged next to a low table and they’re putting fish on the grill.
In most other countries, I’d have freaked out and demanded to see a menu, or a price list, for fear to be presented with an exorbitant bill in the end. But I’ve been in Korea for a while now and my sense was telling me that even though the whole thing seems fishy (haha, get it?), I had nothing to worry about.
See the bit of fish that looks a bit like cheese? It was only the best fish ever. It melted in my mouth. Later on I learned that it was Patagonian Toothfish, commonly known by its more marketable name, Chilean Sea Bass – high on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s list of seafood to avoid due to an abundance of illegal fishing that has depleted its stock in the wild. Not to mention that the method used to catch these fish drown thousands of birds every year.
I try to be really careful about the seafood that I eat, so I felt a little guilty. But at the same time, I’m glad I learned what a Chilean Sea Bass tastes like. If I had known what it was, I wouldn’t have eaten it and then I wouldn’t have understood why it’s so overfished. (Or the meaning of oral euphoria).
There were many aquariums outside these restaurants containing fish waiting to be served to diners. I tried not to stare as a woman scooped up a dozen wriggling squids or so and headed to the kitchen. They were most likely destined to end up as ‘ojingo-sundae’ or stuffed squid, Sokcho’s local delicacy.
I love calamari, and I was going to seek out some ojingo-sundae to try. But honestly, after passing tanks after tanks of live squid bobbing up and down, staring at me with those googly eyes – I sort of lost the appetite for it.
I have enough guilt to last me for the day. Can you blame me?
A great little story. I love heading there in the fall!
I grew up by the ocean so I have no fear of those eyes, they are attached to something delicious.
I am a fish lover and, if it is fresh and well cooked, I would prefer fish to any meat dish. That seabass does look good and I’m not surprised you paid about $18 for that meal. Shame we didn’t feast on fish while in South Korea 🙁
I am a fish lover and, if it is fresh and well cooked, I would prefer fish to any meat dish. That seabass does look good and I'm not surprised you paid about $18 for that meal. Shame we didn't feast on fish while in South Korea 🙁
I hope this article can help the readers be more aware when eating fish. I think WWF produces this little card with information about the statuses of some fish to help us decide what's OK to eat and what's not.
I know that Monterey Aquarium does. I have it in my wallet and use it when shopping/eating out 🙂
I think that the Korean idea of grilling on the table in front of you is one of the coolest culinary inventions on the planet.
Fish, fish and fish everywhere. Looks like we are swimming between fishes. Even statutes look like fishes. HAHAHA… Really nice post.
I can tell how proud the people of Sokcho are about their fish industry and business from your photos. Don't feel bad for eating the Chilean Sea Bass because you were not aware of its status. However this post has given a great information for your readers to be more careful to have that particular fish on the plate.
Love the whole experience. At $18 that might not be possible often but definitely a fun meal to have
Haha, they do the same thing in NYC in Little Italy…cute hostesses stand outside the restaurant and try to lure tourists inside (although the total bill will probably be much more than $18!) Looks like you had a great meal!
It is sad that our seafood resource is being depleted. My family still eats shark fin soup, to my great dismay and digust.
It's tough to see your food when they're still alive. I'd have lost my appetite too. In some parts of Asia they'd serve chicken and fish with their heads still attached. I could never eat them.
Ooh that fish looks amazing! If you don't mind me asking, how much did the meal cost? I've never had grilled fish in a coastal town, only the raw fish (회) and that…well, it's not cheap!
Also, thanks for the shout-out and link to my post! Sokcho is actually one of the few cities I've been to in Korea that I've felt has a very different vibe from the rest of the country (Yeosu, Samcheok and Gyeongju being a few others).
Hi Tom, it was about $18, most of it was the seabass. So not cheap, but I think that's about right for Korea, no?
Fish in Asia is very expensive, the same in China. It's much cheaper to have a meat dish for two with a dessert rather than a small fish for one. Weird.
The 'with dessert' part does it for me:D